778 arrested in Tunisia unrest over price hikes

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European governments warned their citizens about potential rioting on Friday and this weekend, when Tunisia marks seven years since the ouster of President Zine Ben Abidine Ben Ali.

Friday was totally quiet, in Tunisia, after three nights of unrest.

A new anti-austerity youth movement - named Fech Nestannow, which translates as "What are we waiting for?" - has called for nationwide protests Friday, including a large one in Tunis.

However, Tunisian authorities have been swift to quash anti-government protests.

On Saturday, several hundred protesters took to the streets in Sidi Bouzid, a central town where the 2011 uprising erupted after a young man set himself on fire following the confiscation of his fruit cart by policemen demanding bribes. The event triggered demonstrations across the country, which eventually spread to others in the Arab world.

Almost 800 Tunisians have now been arrested following clashes which broke out as a result of mass demonstrations against government austerity measures.

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But public anger has been building since January 1, when the government raised the price of petrol and other items and hiked social security contributions and taxes on cars, phone calls, internet usage and hotel accommodation.

Over 800 people have been arrested during the unrest, according to the interior ministry.

Nearly 800 people have been arrested for vandalism and violence such as throwing petrol bombs at police stations, the interior ministry said on Friday. "What happened had nothing to do with democracy and protests against price hikes". Major Khalifa Chibani said arrests included 151 on Thursday, including in the capital, Tunis, Chibani told the state-run Tunis Africa Press Agency, or TAP.

The Ennahda Islamist party, which governs in a coalition with secularists, called for the minimum monthly wage to be hiked to 357 dinars ($143) and for more aid for poor families, echoing calls by labour unions.

The International Monetary Fund agreed in 2016 to a four-year loan program worth about $2.8 billion but payments are tied to the Tunisian government carrying out economic and social reforms. Many people face unemployment, with official figures put the unemployment rate at around 15 percent.

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